YES... AND | Facilitating self-management and agency in a safe learning environment
When volunteers teach volunteers it is both a challenge and a strength that the relation lacks the traditional, formal authoritative teacher/student dynamic. Many volunteers will not appreciate an authoritative approach,
so instead we focus on guidance and facilitation rather than supervision: Here, the volunteer teacher can facilitate the learning by making sure the practical framework is in order, all necessities in place and instead of taking charge in a process just be present. The volunteer teacher will encourgae with a “yes and” instead of “no, because”. This encourages self-management and agency, while establishing a safe learning environment: The volunteer learner is not alone, nor the sole responsible, but is still encouraged to do their work his/her own way.
If successfully applied the result is a combination of the volunteer learner’s new ideas and individual input backed up by the expertise of the volunteer teacher.
By facilitating and guiding rather than leading, the volunteer learner works actively with his/her own learning which fosters independence and self-commitment.
Every time new volunteers join our organization they are in charge of one project to ensure they enhance their project management skills. To make sure they get the most out of managing their own project one more experienced volunteer will guide the new volunteer.
The job of the volunteer guide is mainly facilitating and setting the framework.
For instance the volunteer guide can create a group chat for the people involved, set a meeting date, bring papers and pen for a brainstorm. During the brainstorm the volunteer guide will mainly be silent to not impose ideas, but he/she will have the expertise to know what works, what framework is in place, and can encourage good ideas. The volunteer guide also makes sure that a safe learning environment is provided – the new volunteer shouldn’t be afraid to fail, so encouragement of the volunteer guide is important. At the end of every meetings the volunteer guide makes sure that everyone knows what their next task is, and when to meet again. However, it is the new volunteer that leads the meeting, delegates task and decides on ideas.
It is important that the volunteer teacher does not have a preconceived idea of what the end project is, keeps an open mind and gives room to experiment.